All shook upAugust 4th, 2011 | Posted by in Writing Tips
The publishing world is changing. Certainly, that is no surprise to anyone. How? Now that’s the million dollar question. If only we knew in advance what the future will bring.
Let’s break it out:
Up until the 1990’s, the internet was for all intents and purposes, non-existent in the average home. It wasn’t until 1995–96 that things really started taking off. In that short amount of time, the information highway has literally transformed the world. If we step back and look at the situation in a historical context, the results are truly staggering. Change this fast and this massive is practically unheard of in history, except during a revolution. Apparently, that is where we are right now.
Gone are the days when readers flocked to their local bookstores in search of information. Now they just click. Think about it. What do you do when you need to build something? When you want to know how to make something, need maps for a trip, questions on gardening, research … everything? Where once people sought information in libraries and stores, now we turn on our computers. Want a recipe for crème brûlée? Look it up. You’re literally clicks away. And you can see how people rated the recipe and read comments for suggested changes. Seriously, what we have gained from instantaneous information is absolutely astounding. No one drives thirty minutes in traffic to buy a book on humming birds anymore. That would be crazy. We click. We type. We scroll.
Non-fiction went so rapidly from being purchased to being clicked that bookstores were left scratching their heads. Hoping to keep up with the times, they added coffee, sweet snacks, lounge chairs, playgrounds, music, anything to draw people from their homes. Neighborhood bookstores disappeared so fast you would think they had gone up in flames, eaten alive by the big chains that were ready and waiting to pounce at the first sign of weakness.
Now we are in the midst of that same kind of change in fiction. The kindle, nook, Amazon, and any other online book dealer or ereader has made it possible for authors to sell their work directly to readers. For the first time ever, writers are talking directly to their audiences rather than relying on a middle man. The only problem is, the middle man just so happens to be the the publisher. You see, the reason the future of fiction so important is because it is all they have left. Nonfiction has already blown out of control, and now self-publishing threatens to do the same to fiction. It is true, there are only six big publishers, but they are big because they inhaled everyone else who couldn’t stay afloat in these turbulent times. Between the recession and the ereaders, it’s no wonder so many articles are coming to their defense. It is highly possible that in a few years, they will start to crumble. Seeing the writing on the wall, these big guys are reaching out to all of their big friends: Write an article in the Times. Save us! Get out the big guns and squish the little guy before he takes us out of business the way we took everyone else down.
Don’t get me wrong. I actually love the big publishers. I love their books, their marketing skills, and their mass distribution. I would prefer that they all stay in business. But after finding out how many amazing authors and amazing books have been turned away by the big guys, and how many authors are now building their platforms on their own, delivering their amazing products directly to readers … I’m less inclined to feel as bad about it.
What it comes down to is this: the internet changed the rules. It’s not the first time something like this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Unfortunately, in a world where no one truly understands what is happening, staying afloat is easier said than done. And as is always the case in a revolution, those who survive must learn to adapt.